Barnes Law Firm Receives Unanimous, Not Guilty Jury Verdict for Their DUI Client in Knox County’s First Post-COVID Jury Trial
On April 14, 2021, Barnes Law Firm attorneys Ed Holt and Brandon Fersten represented our client who was accused of driving under the influence (DUI) in the first Knox County criminal jury trial since Tennessee courts closed on December 28, 2020, due to the covid-19 pandemic. On December 22, 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered its state courts to reclose due to the covid-19 pandemic until at least January 31, 2020. Thereafter, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered an extension of the court closure that resulted in Tennessee courts not being able to hold a jury trial until April 1, 2021. Our attorneys anxiously waited and prepared every case for the opportunity to fight for our clients’ rights, freedom and innocence as soon as courts opened back up.
Prior to trial, the State offered our client a plea deal that included pleading guilty to DUI that would remain on our client’s record for the remainder of his life, an 11 month and 29-day sentence with forty-eight (48) hours in jail and the remainder to be served on supervised probation, a $350 fine, and court costs. Based on our conversations with our client, being adamant that he was innocent and the testimony that was elicited by the officer under oath during the preliminary hearing in general sessions court, our attorneys did not back down. Instead, our attorneys demonstrated our client’s innocence to the jury that resulted in a unanimous not guilty verdict and the DUI being dismissed.
The State of Tennessee called the arresting officer to the stand to testify regarding our client’s impairment. The State alleged that our client was speeding, unable to maintain his lane, had a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech, had difficulty maintaining his balance, failed the field sobriety tests, admitted to drinking two alcoholic beverages, refused to take a blood or breath test, and had red, watery and bloodshot eyes. The State’s witness was very credible with a lengthy career in law enforcement. As such, Barnes Law Firm’s attorneys focused on the difference between the officer’s job, finding probable cause for an arrest, and the jury’s job of finding our client guilty or not guilty by the much higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Barnes Law Firm’s attorneys broke down each of the three stages of a DUI investigation to demonstrate that there was reasonable doubt that our client was innocent. As far as the first stage of a DUI investigation goes, the vehicle in motion stage, our attorneys demonstrated to the jury that speeding is not indicative of impairment and that it is common for an individual to weave within their lane. In closing, Mr. Holt convincingly demonstrated to the jury that the best way to determine whether an individual is too impaired to operate a motor vehicle is to evaluate their driving behavior which, in this case, was not indicative of impairment.
Next, in the personal contact phase, our attorneys demonstrated that our client did not have slurred speech, but it was his normal speaking pattern, that his eyes were slightly red and watery due to a medical condition, that our client did not have difficulty maintaining his balance, the odor of alcohol is not indicative of how much alcohol the individual consumed and that drinking two alcoholic beverages over an extended period of time then driving is legal.
Lastly, our client did not perform well on the field sobriety tests. However, Barnes Law Firm’s attorneys demonstrated to the jury that the test is unreliable when an individual approaches our client’s age, and the officer admitted that the field sobriety tests were only approximately 70% accurate at predicting impairment above a .08.
After approximately forty-five (45) minutes of jury deliberations, the jury came back with a not-guilty verdict that resulted in the DUI indictment against our client being dismissed; allowing our client to avoid jail time, probation for a year, loss of his license for a year and a conviction on his record.